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She takes charge of Shakespeare

August 17, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - When an older sister suggested that Hannah Pearson volunteer to direct The Shakespeare Generation's performance of "Romeo and Juliet" this summer, even her parents weren't sure she should tackle such a big project.

As director, the 14-year-old would have to organize auditions and rehearsals, coordinate costumes and music, and coach a cast ranging in age from about 8 to 21 years old until they could turn Shakespearian verse into meaningful dialogue.

She decided to give it a try, and dozens of rehearsals and six performances later, she's glad she did.

"I've loved being in charge of things and teaching people," the home-schooled Martinsburg teen said. "It gave me a chance to have a big leadership position, and I've learned a lot about Shakespeare."

That doesn't mean it was easy.

With about 10 of the cast members younger than 15, keeping everyone on task and helping them memorize lines was particularly challenging, Hannah said.

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"It's difficult because the words are 400 years old," she said. "Sometimes, they'd get to a word and stop and ask, 'How am I supposed to pronounce that? What does it even mean?'"

Sometimes, Hannah admitted, she wasn't sure herself. But slowly, as the weeks went by, the words began to fill with meaning and the characters grew more complex. Some lines, once they made sense, became hilarious. Others were surprisingly easy to relate to. By the time the show opened July 27 at the Station at Shepherdstown, audience members commented on how much emotion the cast conveyed.

It was a great experience, Hannah said, but she doesn't think she'll direct anymore. Instead, the multi-talented teen plans to focus more attention on another passion: photography.

Hannah has taken a photography class through the Boys and Girls Club and attended a camp at the Natural Conservation Training Center. She won a blue-ribbon, third-premium award at the Berkeley County Youth Fair for a portrait of her neighbor.

This fall, she will enroll in online high school courses through a distance learning institution called Penn Foster. After getting her diploma, she plans to study art in college.

Over the years, Hannah's passions have changed from dance to music to drama, but for as long as she can remember, she's been drawn to the arts. While sitting through math assignments, she often has to fight to stay focused as ideas for creative projects drift through her mind. It's not uncommon for her to wake up to find a sticky note reminding her of an idea for a sketch or photo she thought of while drifting off to sleep.

Hannah's latest interest, she said, is macro photography, such as the close-up image she took of the bristles of a mascara brush.

"You take something small that people don't notice or just pass by and blow it up so they see it in a new way," she said.

Next week or next year, it might be something else.

"I think doing different types of art helps me in deciding what I really want to do," she said.

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